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Review of the day for the week of March 8, 1999.

Monday:
Analyze This

Analyze This
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After Robert DeNiro's monotonous film, Ronin, I was very pleased with his latest film, Analyze This, in which he stars opposite Billy Crystal.

DeNiro portrays Vitto, a gangster "with problems". As his shrink Ben's (Billy Crystal) girlfriend (Lisa Kudrow) puts it, "Well, yeah!" But recently, DeNiro has been having some unusual (for him) problems. For example, he has been overly emotional (which means that he cries at corny commercials) and very stressed out about a big upcoming meeting. Naturally, he's had a few panic attacks too, and it's apparent that he has sexual problems as well.

As a psychiatrist, Ben tries to aid Vitto in solving his problems, but soon becomes fed up with Vitto's antics. When Vitto ruins Ben's wedding, Ben decides it's the last straw. Try telling that to a crime boss - Vitto doesn't take no for an answer!

Vitto's hilariously annoying stunts were continually amusing. Both DeNiro's and Crystal's performances were commendable, Kudrow was an excellent choice in her supporting role. Even Ben's teenage son is engagingly droll. Analyze This is a marvelous film and that I highly recommend.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Tuesday:
In the Heat of the Night

In the Heat of the Night
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In the Heat of the Night is an absorbing film that takes place in the 1960's.

When a wealthy, white man from Chicago (who is building a factory that will employ 1,000 people, including 500 African-Americans) is murdered in a small southern town, the police realize that they need to catch someone - anyone- and claim to have the killer - fast. When an officer stumbles upon Virgil Tibbs (Sydney Poitier), an African-American man waiting to catch a train, he arrests him and hauls him into the station. Apparently he figures that an African-American will be a perfect scapegoat in their very segregated, and prejudiced town.

Much to the police department's embarrassment, Tibbs turns out to be a police officer from Philadelphia (and conveniently enough, the best homicide detective on the force). Since he's a homicide expert, and the police officers in this small hick town don't know the first thing about investigating homicides, they ask for Virgil's help in solving the crime.

The plot twists and turns in this murder mystery kept me guessing until the end. All the actors were excellent, and the characters were very intricate and intriguing. In the Heat of the Night was certainly an entertaining movie to watch.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Wednesday:
Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon
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There is one line I really love in Grand Canyon. Steve Martin, who plays a fairly snobby movie producer, says, "The problem is that people don't watch enough movies. All of life's riddles are answered in movies." As a movie critic, I really appreciated that line. (So, considering that I've watched hundreds of movies, I guess that makes me pretty wise, right?) I enjoyed other parts of this film, although at times it became a bit too philosophical, too poetic, or just plain too weird.

Mack (Kevin Kline), a California businessman develops a friendship with Simon (Danny Glover), an amicable African-American man he meets while marooned in a bad neighborhood. Meanwhile, a producer friend is shot (that's Martin's character) and his wife finds an abandoned baby. She decides they should adopt it. (Their only son, a fifteen-year-old, is away at camp this summer, where he meets his first girlfriend in a subplot.) Mack is also toying with the idea of having an affair with his secretary (he already slept with her once). She apparently thinks she's in love with him. And his new friend needs to get his sister and her family out of their bad neighborhood.

I think one of my problems with this film is that it just tries to do too much. There were so many plots and subplots that my head was spinning. And I quickly tired of the myriad discussions about destiny, fate, and the like. These characters spend so much time probing the depths of their imaginations for explanations of why things happen that they hardly ever do anything interesting. Some parts were amusing, but I would have preferred that this movie kept its feet a bit more firmly planted on the ground.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Thursday:
Being Human

Being Human
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Being Human is an absorbing, if not terribly captivating, film starring Robin Williams.

Williams plays several different roles in this movie. Not only is he a caveman, later he's a Greek slave, then a nineteenth century early American, and so on. For much of this movie, you don't know exactly how he progresses from one story to another (although, along with a woman, he narrates the stories from the beginning). Yet he always ends up being the main character.

Watching Williams go from one character to another is moderately entertaining. The fact that Being Human has several very different plots all in one is preferable - when and if one story line becomes boring, it's over in a few minutes anyway. (What a clever way to plot a film - the writers must have known that nobody could hate all the stories in it!) While not Williams' best movie, Being Human is still worth watching.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Friday:
Basic Instinct

Basic Instinct
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Basic Instinct is a superb movie starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone - although it vaguely reminded me of Douglas' more recent film, A Perfect Murder.

Douglas portrays a Los Angeles cop investigating a very unusual crime. It seems that a murder has been committed that happened exactly as author Kathryn Tremille described in her last book, down to the very last detail of the crime. This is rather suspicious (duh!) and indicates one of two things: either Tremille wrote the book so she'd have an alibi (who would write a book about a specific murder and then commit it?) or someone else is trying to frame her.

As the movie progresses, more and more suspects emerge. In the meantime, Douglas falls for Tremille. Lots of exciting suspense scenes, excellent acting by all the actors, and a constantly twisting and turning plot keep this movie fascinating.

My Rating = Four Stars

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